Are you interested in building a career in the healthcare industry? You may want to consider becoming a CNA.
What is a CNA?
A certified nursing assistant, also known as a CNA, is the professional who provides care and assistance for patients under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
What Does a CNA Do?
Certified nursing assistants help patients of all ages and have extensive daily contact with them. They play a key role in the care for the patients and are responsible for keeping the nurse updated on vital information about the patients. CNA duties can include, but are not limited to:
- Helping patients use the toilet, catheter care
- Cleaning, bathing and helping patients get dressed
- Measuring the patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
- Serving meals and helping patients eat
- Turning and repositioning bedridden patients
- Making beds
- Assisting with exercises
- Helping patients walk
- Listening to patients health concerns, documenting them and reporting the information to the RNs
Depending on the level of CNA training received, as well as the state in which they work, some nursing assistants may also dispense medication. It is not uncommon for certified nursing assistants to form close relationships with their patients, especially if the patients stay in a nursing home for an extended period of time.
Working Environment for CNAs
Working as a certified nursing assistant can be quite challenging and strenuous. These personnel spend most of the day or night on their feet. It is not uncommon for nursing aides to lift patients and move them from a bed to a wheelchair and vice versa. They work full-time and often have shifts even at nights, weekends and holidays.
Reasons to Become a CNA
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing assistants in May 2012 was $24,420. While you won’t get rich working as a CNA, there are other benefits for entering this honorable profession. It is important to choose to become a CNA for the right reasons to avoid becoming frustrated and burnt out.
Emotionally rewarding – Despite the hard work it entails, becoming a CNA can be rewarding. You can get a sense of satisfaction knowing that you have helped people and made them feel comfortable and loved.
Exposure to other careers in the medical field – Those who have always wanted a career in the field of healthcare but haven’t decided on a particular path can start off as certified nursing assistants. This will help them observe other medical jobs, understand their work, and find one that may interest them.
Valuable experience before becoming an RN – Some nursing schools only admit applicants who are certified nursing assistants with working experience or those who are working towards obtaining their CNA certification. Even if your chosen nursing school doesn’t require it, becoming a CNA can lend valuable knowledge, skills and experience that will help you as a future RN.
How to Become a CNA
You will need to complete a state-approved CNA program and pass a competency exam from your state after completing the CNA program. You will also need to undergo on-the-job CNA training that will help them learn about their employer’s specific policies and procedures.
Those who pass the competency exam are placed on a state registry, which is required for them to be able to work in nursing homes. Some states may have additional requirements, such as continuing education and a criminal background check.
Where Can I Get CNA Training?
You may find CNA classes in your local high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals and nursing homes. If you are cash-strapped and cannot afford to pay for education from CNA schools, you can check if local hospitals, nursing homes, non-profit organizations or government-related organizations conduct free CNA training in exchange for working for them. Some of these institutions will ask students to work for them for a certain period of time after finishing the training, while others may require students to work for free for the duration of the training.
You can also take CNA classes online, but you will still be required to complete an on-site/clinical experience.